A safe place called Love

.

.

There is sometimes a lot of noise on these blogs.  Believers are always under attack from unbelievers. The ones who really attack are called atheists.  Angry atheists. Savage atheists.  Ones that are abusive and rude.  Who attack the One believers love.  And there is a line in the bible that gets used as the reason for “attacking back”:

A den of vipers.

Jesus said those four words – and Jesus is THE role model!  So what happens?  Believers become snake killers.  Believers enter the den to confront the vipers – to “call them out” (whatever that means).

Jesus said lots of things if I read my bible correctly.  But more than the saying was the healing.  Was the meeting each where they were right then.  Accepting that I am me and I will be whatever I choose to be, I will believe whatever I choose to believe.  And he invited those who were curious.  There were so many who were not “vipers”.  And even for those who were not interested he said something: “Shake the dust from you sandals and move on.”

And he connected me with one of those vipers this morning.

Author of Confusion, Vi Rose La Bianca.  A quiet viper.  A thoughtful viper.  A kind viper.  A viper not a viper at all.

Just another you or me.  A human being.  One of us.  Because we are all human beings.  Another human being who had no choice in whether or not she got God as a child.  Just as so many human beings as children get no choice in the God or no-God they get given.  And then spend an adulthood reclaiming themselves.  It’s called free-will – the choice to choose. It’s called living – it’s called, I think, finding a safe place called Love.

I am tired of the noise.  I am tired with the having to be right or having to defend why I am NOT wrong.  I am tired of being a human being who has to be a certain type of human being.  A human being who believes right for some and, therefore, believes wrong for others.  I am tired of being asked what I believe so I can be judged as this or that.

So he connected me with one of those vipers this morning.

Vi Rose La Bianca may not agree with that statement.  And that is okay.  Because reading her words I feel a peace.  I feel a space of peace and quiet.  I feel no need to defend myself.  I feel no need to convince her she is wrong.  I feel no need to do anything more than enjoy the stillness and quiet.

But I do feel the desire to share her words with you.  To invite you see another human being just like you and me – and you over there.

I think this “viper” is one of us.  A human being just like me.  I think we are all one of us.  And I am tired of being told I cannot be one of us.  That I must be one of you.  One of them.  One of “something” in which Love is in short supply and “being right” is the only currency worth having.

So over to you.  You have the link.

Me … ?  I found peace and quiet as I strolled slowly through her posts.  And it changed my beliefs not one bit.  That is what I call a “safe place”.  And that is all I seek.

I think it is all any of us seek.

Isn’t it?

Paul

.

Choice to choose

You Don’t Have to Attend Every Argument To Which You Are Invited

Quote: “You don’t have to attend every argument to which you are invited.” – Unknown

Comment: A participant in one of my workshops gave me this quote, and I am impressed with how it reminds us that we have choices about how we interact with those around us. While this seems somewhat obvious, I would imagine that many of us find these interactions almost automatic (especially around arguments).

In other words, when someone “invites us to an argument” by criticizing some aspect of our lives, most of us find ourselves reacting in one of several very predictable ways. We either fight back, defend ourselves, or withdraw.  For those of you who are aware of my Top of the Mind philosophy, you know that this fight or flight tendency is driven by the lower, reactive 20% of the brain.  And further, when we are coming from this lower reactive brainstem, we don’t have access to the clarity, confidence, and creativity of the “Top of the Mind” that we need to be successful in life.  This is especially true when trying to be influential with others because if we are not clear about the value of our position, we won’t be able to deal with conflict from a place of confidence and creativity.

Of course, even if you are not familiar with how the brain influences communication, we all know that these fight-or-flight reactions rarely produce very satisfying results.

If we fight back, we have then matched their energy, and are now part of an ever-escalating cycle of conflict that can actually result in them becoming more argumentative.

If we defend ourselves, they will very likely attack our defense because they are generally not looking to understand our position, they are just trying to convince us of something.

If we withdraw, they will either chase after us (trying to engage us in the argument) or believe that they have “won,” which only goes to reinforce their belief that attacking others is the way to get what they want.

Now, I am not saying that one should never fight back or withdraw. In fact, if someone is unable to fight back or stand up for their rights in a situation, then learning this skill may be exactly what is called for. Similarly, if one always “has to” fight back and doesn’t have the ability to just walk away from a confrontation, then this skill might be worth developing. What we are talking about here is not what one “should” do, but what one chooses to do.

It’s all about choice.

Becoming aware that we have these choices, and then making them “on purpose” is, in my opinion, one of the crucial components in creating successful relationships or interactions.  Let’s look at how this week’s quote might help us with these choices.  For example, we could become more purposeful about how we respond to invitations to arguments at work.  We could decide whether the situation would be improved by our standing up for our position, walking away, or not attending the argument in the first place.  We could make these same decisions at home, with our friends, in our extended family, and even the strangers we encounter on a daily basis.

The bottom line is regardless who is inviting us to an argument, we are responsible for how we choose to respond to that invitation.

If we have concluded that arguments are not our preferred form of communication, we can either suggest a more functional way of discussing the situation or, having determined that the relationship isn’t currently open to change, just choose to wait until the person is willing to create a more respectful interaction.  Whatever the choice, the fact that we will be choosing “on purpose” should serve us in creating a more purposeful life.

In fact, the next time someone invites you to an argument, you might just send them a note:

“Sorry, I can’t make it… too busy living life. Feel free to start without me.”

Quotes from the Top of the Mind™

BILL CRAWFORD, PH.D. – SELF-HELP

.

 

The Book of Discipline

More than 600 United Methodist clergy and laity say they are bringing church law charges against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fellow United Methodist, over a zero tolerance U.S. immigration policy — a policy that includes separating children from parents apprehended for crossing into the U.S. illegally.

However, an authority on church history and polity said he’s unaware of a complaint against a lay person ever moving past the district level.

The group claimed in a June 18 statement that Sessions, a member of a Mobile, Alabama, church, violated Paragraph 2702.3 of the denomination’s Book of Discipline.

Specifically, the group accuses him of child abuse in reference to separating young children from their parents and holding them in mass incarceration facilities; immorality; racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines” of The United Methodist Church.

All are categories listed in 2702.3 as chargeable offenses for a professing member of a local church.

“I really never would have thought I’d be working on charges against anybody in the Methodist connection, much less a lay person,” said the Rev. David Wright, a Pacific Northwest Conference elder and chaplain at the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, and organizer of the effort to charge Sessions.

But Wright said the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy as enforced by Sessions, combined with Sessions’ use of Romans 13 to justify the policy, led him and others to conclude that more than a statement of protest was needed.

Sessions did not immediately respond to a request for comment left with his press office. In recent speeches, he has said the zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration is in the national interest and will protect children by discouraging immigrant parents from taking them on dangerous journeys to cross into the U.S.

The Rev. William Lawrence, professor emeritus at Perkins School of Theology and an authority on Methodist history and polity, said anyone in the church can bring a charge against anyone else. While it’s not uncommon for pastors, district superintendents and bishops to get complaints about a layperson, he said a formal complaint bringing charges is extremely rare.

The Book of Discipline allows for a church trial and even expulsion of a lay member, but the first step in a long process would be for the member’s pastor and district superintendent to solve the complaint through “pastoral steps,” Lawrence said.

“I’m not aware of any circumstance in the 50-year history of The United Methodist Church when a complaint against a lay person moved beyond the stage of its resolution by a district superintendent or a pastor,” he added.

Wright said the group’s goal in filing charges was to prompt such discussions.

“I hope his pastor can have a good conversation with him and come to a good resolution that helps him reclaim his values that many of us feel he’s violated as a Methodist,” Wright said.

He added: “I would look upon his being taken out of the denomination or leaving as a tragedy. That’s not what I would want from this.”

Wright said the complaint has been emailed to Sessions’ home church in Alabama, and to a Northern Virginia church that Wright said he understands Sessions regularly attends.

Sessions’ pastor at the Alabama church did not return calls.

Bishop David Graves of the Alabama-West Florida Conference did not respond to a request for comment on the group’s move against Sessions, whose home church is in that conference. A spokeswoman said he hasn’t been given details of the complaint.

Graves did release a statement that specifically addresses the separation of parents and children.

“I implore Congress and the current administration to do all in their power to reunite these families,” he said. “Changes to these laws need to be addressed starting today. Let us join our voices in prayer for the separated families, for those working to end this injustice and for our nation’s leaders.”

The Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy, specifically the separation of parents and children, has been widely criticized by religious leaders, including conservative evangelicals.

Last week, Sessions cited a verse from Romans to support the policy, prompting another round of criticism. Those critics included United Methodists.

The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, decried both the policy and Sessions’ invoking of the Bible in its defense.

Calling the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy “immoral,” former first lady Laura Bush, a lifelong United Methodist, said the policy that separates children from parents “breaks my heart.”

Bush, writing in the Washington Post, said people on all sides agree that the current immigration system is not working but said zero tolerance is not the answer.

“In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis?” she wrote. “I, for one, believe we can.”

Laura Bush and her husband, former President George W. Bush, are members of Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas.

Some individual United Methodists have written Sessions’ pastor on their own, asking for accountability from Sessions on the immigration policy.

The Rev. Valerie Nagel Vogt, associate pastor of Travis Park United Methodist Church in San Antonio, mailed such a letter on June 15. She said she was prompted, in part, by imagining her own feelings if she were separated from her two young children.

Vogt also hopes for a searching conversation on immigration and United Methodist values between Sessions and his pastor.

“I believe it is in community that we learn, grow and become more like Jesus,” she said. “There is abounding grace and an ongoing need for all of us who claim to follow Jesus to ask for forgiveness.”

The Rev. Abigail Parker Herrera, community outreach coordinator for Servant (United Methodist) Church in Austin, Texas, also wrote a letter to Sessions’ Alabama church.

She too is hoping Sessions will be persuaded to a new position on immigration, based on conversation with his pastor.

“Christianity wouldn’t exist if we didn’t believe people could change,” she said.

A number of interfaith leaders signed a June 7 letter calling for an end to the policy of separating families, including two United Methodists, Bishop H. Kenneth Carter Jr., president of the denomination’s Council of Bishops, and Jim Winkler, top executive of the National Council of Churches.

“Tearing children away from parents who have made a dangerous journey to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children,” the letter said.

The Clergy Letter Project, an organization representing a wide array of religions and denominations, including The United Methodist Church, also has voted to condemn the government’s separation of immigrant children from their parents.

Criticism of the use of family separation as part of a zero tolerance policy has come from a number of other religious groups and individuals, including Roman Catholic bishops and the Rev. Franklin Graham.

“Church charges brought against Sessions”: The People of The United Methodist Church (copyright)

Sin no more

 

Do those who have been saved weigh less than those not?
When I have been knowingly bad do I put on lbs?
Is confession like doing weight watchers?
Is forgiveness having a detox?

 

I was raised on the spiritual food groups.  Bible.  Church.  Sin.  Seems to me, looking back, that is a very frugal diet for a young man with appetites.

 

Do those who have been saved look thinner than those not?
When I have been knowingly bad do I get flabby?
Is confession like doing weight watchers?
Is forgiveness having a detox?

 

I thought love was smiling at everyone.  I thought love was chatting to everyone.  I thought love was something God did to us.  Because I never knew what love was at all.

 

When I was saved did I look heavier before?
When I have been knowingly good am I thin?

 

As I journey I have less and less interest in sin.  Sin bores me.  Sin distracts me.  Sin has become a label for something I no longer understand.  For something I am told I must.

 

Is confession like doing weight watchers?
Is forgiveness having a detox?

 

Sin no more, Jesus said.  Cured and “sin no more”.  And I wonder … What if he meant it?  What if “sin no more” was: sin “no more”?  What if I … sin “no more”?  What if I am free … “of sin”?

 

Confession is good for the soul
But confession of what.
Confession for who?

 

What if we would not let go of sin – just so that we didn’t have to love?
What if:  “You are cured and can only love”, we didn’t get on with?
What if heaven is now, and what if … we chose hell?

 

We seem to want to see a lifetime of suffering.
We seem to wish it upon ourselves.

.

You are cured and can sin no more.

Would leave so much more room for love.

.

Who makes me uncomfortable?

I have learned that when I fear taking on (add your own pet hate) I miss the point:

a) “fear” has no place in love
b) “taking on” is a win and lose scenario
c) “pet hate” is a roadblock to relationship

The God I know is not of fear – nor of winning and losing – nor of placing roadblocks in my way.

I do that.

e.g.

“taking on the atheists”
“taking on the gays”
“taking on those who do not believe the bible (as they should)”
“the qualified theologians”
“the unchurched”
“the congregation”
“the institution of church”
“the lack of church”
“the homeless”
“the grieving”
“the druggies”
“the prostitutes”
“the criminals”
“the ones who scare me”

The “anyone who makes me uncomfortable (pet hate)”

Because behind every label and category is you and me several choices from now – several choices ago – several choices I couldn’t face – several choices I had to face.

I think that is why I find it easier and easier to follow God Soft Hands Jesus.

He sees me – no matter my label for me (or you).

And THAT is relationship.

.

 

I will

 

 

Dear Father

Just like when I buy a different car – I then see the same make everywhere when I never did before, so the same when I name myself compartmentalised or stigmatised – I then see compartments and stigma where I never before.

I will see only with love – I will speak only with love – I will hear only with love – I will feel only with love – so that I may then see me only with the love that you see me – and that I may then see others only with the love that you see me.

(and when others do compartmentalise me – I will see their compartment only with affection and love as you do)

Love you
((hugs))

.

 

Creating “conditional life”

“I never asked to be born!”

The cry of an angry child.  An ungrateful child.  A child who is correct.  The child did in fact not ask to be born.  The gift of life is for the parents.  For the creators of life.  The life is their gift to themselves.

“We are having a baby!”

The news of excited parents-to-be.  Parents who have left their own parents, joined together to become one flesh.  The one joined flesh now a few cells old.

A few cells maybe destined to become someone tapping out words like this in a few decades from now.

Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

“I never asked to be born!”

I wonder if we have it wrong.  All this biblical stuff about who can and who cannot become one flesh.

“I never asked to be born!”

If the right to life is a sacred right – then we oblige the gift of life on those who were not invited.  We oblige those we have created with our own created “conditional life”:

Here is your body, here is you brain, here is your soul – we gave you all of that –we have given you the gift of life!  So don’t screw it up – don’t be someone we don’t want you to be.  Have your chromosomes, your hormones, your reproductive bits all in the right place, the right shape, and the right working order.   Be attracted to the right gender or our gift will be damaged.  You will have damaged our gift to you.”

Isn’t that what we have made these verses?

For Christians who talk about all being equal, all being welcome, all being saved by grace – isn’t all “that” about the inside stuff – the character stuff – the soul stuff?  Isn’t all that NOT about the outside stuff: the colour, the size, the weight, the height, the internal organs, the external organs, the physical bits that we call a body?  Isn’t this being saved about the bits we cannot see, the bits we cannot explain, the bits we call “me”?

“I never asked to be born – and I never asked to be given “the bodily organs” of a male/female!”

For those who are born with the inside stuff of a man and the outside bits of a woman … for those who are a woman outside and a man inside … or any other combination under the rainbow …

Why do we use the bible only to endorse the bodily organs we can see, dissect, repair and replace?  Why do we not “use the bible” for the inside bits the church – and each Christian – teaches and preaches as the bit that matters?  Is not differentiating between who squirts in the “right or wrong” way no different to who has the “right or wrong” colour skin?  Is that not measuring and judging the “outside bits” – rather than the “inside bits”.

There are others verses about the outside and inside:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  Matthew 23:25-28

“I never asked to be born!”

Is true.

.